Art Supplies – the essentials

You don’t need lots of fancy or expensive stuff to start giving you and the kids you love a #KickUpTheArts at home. In my experience, as well as your standard pencils, markers and crayons, here are the basic supplies you’ll need to get started…

As far as I’m concerned, Ikea does the best kids’ paint in bright colours. These neon ones are non-toxic, washable, gorgeous and they come in very nice squeezy tubes.

img_3021You’ve gotta have primary colours (red, blue, yellow) too as well as some black and white, which you can mix to make all the other colours, especially brown😂… I got mine – liquid tempera by Reeves – at Cass Art, but you can use whatever you like.

As a treat, and when you don’t feel you can handle a mess, watercolours are great. Tiger Stores do a passable palette, and Ikea’s new ones look lovely and come with pots and brushes, but these ones from Micador are our favourites.

Top tip! Don’t just chuck out paint when you’ve finished an art activity, cover with cling film (press it right down on top of the paint) and it’ll be good as new when you need it again.

It’s also worth remembering that you don’t need to use lots of paint to start, a little goes a long way.

Keep old wrapping paper, pages from work that you’ve printed one-sided, re-use as much as you can. Very small kids don’t care what they’re painting on, it’s all about the PROCESS. Us grown ups tend to forget this 😉

A long roll of paper, like this one from Ikea is very handy to have (and only costs £3 for 30metres), as is a packet of A4 printer paper and some rolls of brown paper – you can pick up both in any pound shop or local supermarket.

Paper plates are brilliant to draw on, cut, make stuff with or act as paint palettes when you can’t be arsed cleaning up. Keep the painty ones for paper plate monsters or another craft activity on a rainy day.

Top tip! Cut your paper into smaller squares or rectangles to keep things lively. A4 all the time gets boooorring.

You can get some very basic ones at your local pound shop, but the quality is generally shite and the kids don’t experience the feeling of the real thing as a result. For a little bit more cash, Tiger Stores  (or Flying Tiger as they are soon to be known) have surprisingly good ones and ours have served us well this year (they’re the black and red ones in the pic above). It’s worth spending a little extra to get better brushes that hold and distribute paint in a more satisfactory fashion.

Top tip!  You can use anything as a brush really – old toothbrushes, dish brushes, pegs with cotton wool clamped in, sponges, fingers, thumbs and even brooms.

Oh, the fun you can have with a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking / the desperation of a grown up in need in of some peace…

Things to hold water / paint / brushes / googly eyes in… DO NOT BUY CONTAINERS. You have everything you need in your house already.

Washing machine balls are great for small amounts of paint and they grip well on plastic, which makes them idea to hold water and paint when you’re getting messy with very young kids. As with all receptacles, they’re also fun for printing with.

img_0110Jam jars are the business. Keep them all, lids too. I’ve got a pretty gorgeous collection of bonne maman jam jars because their lids are really pretty and they’re always on offer in Asda. A joyful little upside to the soullessness of the supermarket…

Top tip! Make a mess free paint holder by punching a hole in the lid of your jar with a screwdriver – punch a few times to get a hole big enough for a chunky paintbrush. Result!

Use old jars, cups, lids, egg boxes, bean tins, ketchup bottles (great for paint), loo roll inserts, takeaway boxes – make sorting your receptacles a craft activity in itself.

A wipeable table cloth
You can of course use old newspapers, but my three #filthylittlearticles kept wetting them and then it would stick to the floor / table and be an inky pain in the arts to clean up so I invested in a cheap oilcloth table cover. I have since upgraded to this waxcloth from Ikea. It’s purdy, you can stick stuff to it, and it works on the floor, in the garden, as a cover for dens… Treat yo’self.

Get yourself a tub of PVA glue and a couple of glue sticks. Transfer some of the gooey glue to an old ketchup bottle (I use our empty Ikea paint tubes) to make it easier for small hands to administer. Also, use an old paintbrush to apply it – I picked up this brilliexcellent trick from the conservators at New North Press, where I used to work. Who needs arts school, eh?

Glue is great for taking the next step with a drawing or painting, turning 2D art into a multimedia project that’s loads of fun for little ones.

Top tip! In a fix, mix flour and water to make glue and it will work a treat.

They are the unsung heroes of my art cupboard. Use them to hang artworks to dry by hanging string over a radiator or between 2 doorknobs to make a drying line. Display artwork just like this or stick a peg on the wall with blu-tack and make a more permanent exhibit.

Decorate with feathers, bling, paint and make it all even more fancy.

img_4301Clamp cotton wool, cut-up bits of sponge, wire cleaners, fabric and use as paintbrushes. Handy for making old shirts and t-shirts fit better as cover ups too. The uses are almost endless…

Googly eyes, glitter and glitzy bits
You cannot go wrong with a couple of googly eyes. They’ll liven up everything from a rock to a leaf to a peg (see above).

Glitzy bits of all sorts can be used to stick on paintings to change the direction of a piece. Glitter is great when not fecked randomly all over the gaff. Dip both ends of a painted stick in it, write an initial in glue, throw glitter over and blow off the excess. Magic. And all good skills for little ones to practice.

Top tip! Store a selection of bits in jars with lids on and put them all in a box that’s easy to bring out again and again.

Washi tape
Basically, it’s masking tape in living colour. Regular old masking tape will work just as well but washi tape makes things more bright and fun.

Use to…
⚡stick artwork on walls without damaging paintwork
⚡stick paper directly to your worksurface and peel off to create a gorgeous frame
⚡wrap sticks and stuff
⚡stick randomly to paper, paint over, then peeeeeel

Kids love this. It’s like picking a scab. Only better.

Tin foil
Wrap things up in it, scrunch into balls, rip it, tear it, paint on it, glue it and glitter it, use it for collages, no self respecting art cupboard should be without it.


Do not be afraid to let your kids use scissors
. It’s a really good activity for fine motor skills development. And it gives them a sense of responsibility, which is a good thing. Seriously, supervise them, help them out, but let them practice with some wool and a loo roll insert and you’ll be doing them a favour.

Cotton buds
Another oft forgotten art tool that is just the best for little hands. Use to paint, cut up, make stickmen, dip in nail polish remover and get them to clean remaining spots off your lovely oilcloth…

We keep a box of “interestings” in the kitchen and chuck in potentially fun recyclables as and when we think of it. When it gets full the daddy starts freaking out so before he chucks it all, we make something.

So far we’ve made an airport, a fire engine, bouncy balls, a magic bottle containing one item for each letter of the alphabet, a giant birthday cake and loads of mad looking robots. Fun was had. Items that are keepers include…

Loo roll inserts⚡Kitchen roll inserts⚡Corks⚡Bottle tops⚡Bottles⚡Egg boxes⚡Elastic bands⚡Straws⚡Wool (yarn)⚡String⚡Ribbon⚡Plastic Bottles⚡Bubble wrap (it’s the best!)

Top tip! When you’re buying shirts for back to school, keep the cardboard inserts for heavy duty art, they are ace. 

Storing your supplies
I dream of having a dedicated art space one day, but no doubt my kiddos will be all grown up by the time that day comes, so in the meantime we keep our supplies in a rolling trolley in the corner of the kitchen. It’s another Ikea gem and it cost £49. We store paper in small kids suitcases and

If you can, dedicate one of your cupboards to it all and make it easily accessible. Trust me, if you let the kids take the initiative and instil in them the need to respect their artyfarty tools, they will surprise you by taking care of it. Mess happens, specially when there’s fun being had. Us grown ups just gotta get over it.

Speaking of mess, I almost forgot – the best coverup is an old shirt, sleeves cut short, worn back to front. This also doubles as a priest costume, in case your smallie is that way inclined🙏

🍭Next time, treats that you can add to your cupboard for even more fun…


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